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Americans for Prosperity Press Release

AFP: EARN IT Act Fails to Prevent Child Abuse and Will Weaken American Security

Jul 2, 2020 by AFP

Arlington, VA – Ahead of today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) urged members to reject the EARN IT Act – a misguided measure that places the encrypted services of every American in jeopardy. Despite recent changes, the bill would still allow state lawmakers to weaken encrypted communications and follow the failed regulation model of FOSTA-SESTA. Technology experts and civil society organizations have repeatedly warned that weakened encryption could be exploited by bad actors and that no backdoor could guarantee only law-abiding officials have access.

AFP has pointed to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Anna Eshoo’s (D-CA) Invest in Child Safety Act as the right way to think about addressing online child abuse. The legislation stands in contrast to counterproductive efforts like the EARN IT Act that inadvertently expose people to online abuse by weakening encrypted services.

Americans for Prosperity Senior Tech Policy Analyst Billy Easley II issued the following statement:

“The EARN IT Act is presented as a bill that will address child abuse, but the measures it offers would make no meaningful progress in combating this terrible crime. As many have concluded, the EARN IT Act is nothing more than poorly disguised attempt to weaken the encrypted services by enabling state lawmakers to cripple or ban such services. This counterproductive approach to combatting child abuse online will leave everyone worse off. That is why groups from across the ideological spectrum share our strong opposition to this bill. In addition to a host of other bad policies, this bill could irrevocably harm the very free speech protections that enable the internet to be the most powerful communications tool in history and to serve as a primary means of commerce for countless American small business.

“The Invest in Child Safety Act is focusing on the right problems like the lack of funding to proper enforcement agencies and the need to expand  online crimes task forces. We applaud Sen. Wyden and Rep. Eshoo for tackling this issue the right way by addressing the root problem: the resource gap for agencies to combat online abuse. It’s crucial that we do more to protect children from harm online but it starts with addressing the right problems.”

Easley’s colleague, Stand Together’s Neil Chilson, spoke on a Department of Justice Panel focused on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a measure needlessly threatened by the EARN IT Act. He noted, “The principles of individual responsibility embodied in Section 230 freed U.S. entrepreneurs to become the world’s best at developing innovative user-to-user platforms… But there is little evidence that changing Section 230 would improve competition or innovation to the benefit of consumers. And there are good reasons to believe that increasing liability would hinder future competition and innovation and could ultimately harm consumers on balance.” Read his full comments here.

Americans for Prosperity released a statement alongside the American Civil Liberties Union in March noting that EARN IT, “a backdoor for law enforcement is a front door for criminals. It is not possible to separate the two.”

Americans for Prosperity’s South Carolina state director, Andrew Yates, recently shared an oped that ran in Sen. Graham’s home state, arguing against the EARN IT Act’s irresponsible approach to encryption.